'Do Not Retain'
what the N.M. Supreme Court's Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission
recommends voters do with Judge Paul Onuska's bid for yet another
term as district judge. Of the 80 judges evaluated statewide, only
three other judges got the thumbs down from the Commission (and
all of them were misdemeanor court judges in Albuquerque). The Commission
surveyed lawyers and other courtroom participants, and interviewed
each judge twice, as part of their evaluation.
raised serious concerns about (Onuska's) arrogance, perceived lack
of impartiality and courtesy, and the negative impact that his general
demeanor has on his courtroom. For these reasons, his overall judicial
performance received a rather low rating," the Commission states
on its website, www.nmjpec.org.
through Onuska's term, the Commission advised Onuska of his poor
scores. "Although these weaknesses have been previously identified,
Judge Onuska has expressed little desire to improve, and his scores
in these areas have continued to decline," the Commission states.
state bar and the N.M. Supreme Court were shocked in the mid-nineties,
when a poll showed that New Mexicans do not hold their state judges
to the same high esteem that the residents of most other states
hold their state courts to.
problem is a lack of accountability. In the past very few (we've
been told, only one) district judge has failed to win his retention
election. The nature of a retention election means that a bad judge
has no opponent to publicize his shortcomings. Voters are left with
no information with which to cast an intelligent vote in a retention
election. In 1997, the N.M. Supreme Court created the Judicial Performance
Evaluation Commission to increase the performance of New Mexico's
judiciary, and to give voters an intelligent evaluation of judges
seeking retention. The Commission consists of seven attorneys and
eight laymen appointed by the Supreme Court from nominations forwarded
by the governor, chief justice of the supreme court, speaker of
the house, senate pro-tem, house minority leader, senate minority
leader, and the president of the state bar. Felix Briones, Jr.,
of Farmington, is the chairman of the commission, whose members
are from all points in the state.
Commission members-who serve without pay--did a tremendous amount
of work for the people of New Mexico. If the voters ignore their
hard work and their careful advice, and retain bad judges they will
have no one to complain to about the sad state of New Mexico's judiciary,
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